Thursday, 28 July 2016

Sharing the Joys and Knowledge of Expressive Watercolour

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.”  ~ Margaret Fuller

Perhaps the biggest joy for me recently has been sharing my watercolour knowledge with someone who thought she would never be able to draw or paint.  For 41 years my friend has been telling me she cannot draw or paint.  For 41 years I have been gently telling her she could if she wanted to.  Last week with a bit more encouragement I convinced her to just relax and have some fun with my watercolours with no pressure. She was finally open and ready to the idea of her being able to draw and paint with a little bit of guidance.

I was really chuffed that she made a fabulous start and most importantly that she really enjoyed the experience.  I was delighted that we ended our first session at the local art shop to buy her a set of her own watercolours, brushes and paper.  Already we have had another full day session studying technique and lots of colour theory.  She has been practising on her own too and is really excited about continuing to play with colour.  All that was missing for her was a little bit of knowledge in how to start this wondrous journey of self-discovery and playing with colour.  

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As her guider, I am very conscious of not wanting to dampen down her natural creative instincts.  Even at such an early stage with artistic development, individuality is present and needs to be nurtured and not suppressed.  For this reason, I am taking the approach to work with her strengths and weakness as they occur.  I allow her to make independent decisions about subject, composition, colour and lots more from the start. In effect she is in the driving seat of how our sessions develop.  I am there just to guide with technique and theory.   

Of course these are one-to-one sessions which can easily be tailored to suit her needs and abilities.  My aim from the start is to develop independence with watercolour as quickly as possible and not to develop a copy of me as a painter.   For this reason I have chosen not to use learning tools like step by steps.  We will be working from life as much as possible so she will develop the confidence to be herself as a creative from very early on.    

For me it is quite an exciting challenge to see how far we get and also to see which direction we are going to go in.  Nothing is mapped out and we are just going with the flow.  How many times have I said that before on this blog?  “Just going with the flow.”  As a painter she is going to be very different to me because her skills and tastes are totally different to mine. I want to encourage that difference and not smother it from existence with my own ideas and abilities with watercolour.  It will be interesting for me to see how she views the world in artistic terms and how she will eventually express those on paper with her own watercolours.

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No doubt I will show my version of some of what we do together in future if I think it is interesting enough.  For now I am going to wish everyone looking in a lovely summer.  I have a few projects planned for myself that are not art dedicated so I will be taking a break from blogging for a little while.  

Sunday, 17 July 2016

“Pushing and Shoving” with Rose Petals in Watercolour

This week my explorations with flower petals continued.  I was aiming for subtlety in tone, delicacy, fragility and that ephemeral thing that flowers are all about. 

Of all the watercolour techniques I know the one I call “pushing and shoving” is perhaps the most difficult process to achieve especially when delicacy is the objective.  It very much relies on timing, patience and strong will power to hold back until the right moment to go in and add more pigment.  Learning to read the changing stages of water drying on the paper is vital.  Too early in adding too weak a pigment strength creates nothing more than a flood of similar toned wash.  The key with this is to build tone in the right places, at the right time, with the right strength of pigment.  Patience is definitely a virtue with this technique.    

Compositionally I was aiming for an abstract of delicate layered washes.  The white of the paper is the first layer of tone.  Sorry photos are not the best but they are adequate enough to get the idea.  

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Opinions about my watercolours are always interesting to hear.  Though after all these years I have learnt to take all of them with a pinch of salt.  I remember a few years ago an elderly gentleman who thought he knew a thing or three about art advised me not to leave white paper areas in my watercolour paintings.  I questioned him further about his comment, only to learn that he was basing his opinion on his collection of oil paintings that he had collected over the years.  At that point I politely said to him:  “Yes I will remember that in future.”   In my head I was thinking: “Yes I will remember in future that this guy has no idea what art is all about and he still regards himself as an art critic.”   I have found that everyone is an art critic in this crazy world.  The most amusing and memorable ones are the ones who have no idea what they are talking about.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Inspiration for Flower Petal Studies in Watercolour

Inspiration is a strange and wonderful thing and I never know when it is going to hit me next.  An idea for a new subject to study popped into my head whilst attending a friend’s son’s wedding a few weeks ago.  Then life got busy and the idea was put on the back burner.      

This weekend the petal idea sprang to mind once again when I attended another close friend’s wedding that was held in the grounds of a public rose garden.  The roses were blossoming in spectacular abundance and in all sorts of colours.   Both weddings had pretty flower petals as confetti and that is where the idea for studying petals came from. 

Petals seem to be the theme for the summer of 2016 for me.  During my recent trip to Madeira petals were dropping at my feet and covering the streets.  So now, I find I really cannot ignore what life is trying to say to me and petals have become the current subject of study.     


Late last night I started with a very quick, loose “mood study” of rose petals.  This was a different approach to my last floral painting that was all about strength and vibrancy within flowers. With this new concept, I look forward to exploring fragility, delicacy and lightness with flower petals.      

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Bird of Paradise Flowers in Watercolour

“At the end of your brush is the tip of your soul.”  
~ Andrew Hamilton 

This week I decided to tackle the bird of paradise flower once again.  To make things more interesting I challenged myself to move away from the photographic composition I was working from.  I used my photo just as a reference.      

Bird of Paradise Flowers
Watercolour with a touch of gouache

Having seen these flowers growing in large clumps in Madeira recently, I knew there was nothing soft, gentle or wispy about them. These plants exude substance, strength and structure which meant in my mind a painting of them needed to reflect their fundamental characteristics.   

Having sorted out the direction of the painting, I then proceeded to figure out how I could inject more of myself into this painting that was obviously going to rely heavily on structure.  It did not take me long to realise that my natural style with watercolour would kick in to sort out that problem. At that point I stopped thinking and just got on with painting.  Sometimes it is best not to think too much and just allow instinct to take over.   

Of course it takes years and years of practice to become a truly instinctive painter.  Even now, after all these years, I know I still have lots to learn.  My artistic path will never be content with just being able to draw or paint for the sake of producing a simple painting.  It will always be motivated to learn and explore more.